Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew E. Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Rebecca Birch, EdD


This study seeks to understand how students are self-empowered in a racially and economically diverse school. A literature review revealed a body of peer reviewed research in relation to student empowerment through educational, sociological, and psychological theories. Within the literature review, the need for restructure of teacher/student relationships became apparent across a range of theories and frameworks. Yet, insufficient studies have been conducted to understand student empowerment and identity from a student perspective, or to what extent they are able to empower themselves and what methods or support they seek to feel more empowered. Through collecting and coding in-depth writing prompt responses and student interviews, this study examines strategies students have for empowering themselves in a unique school environment. This study utilized a phenomenological approach to triangulate qualitative data that collected the responses of fifty students in addition to four students who were asked open-ended questions in personal interviews. The interviews were detailed case studies into the lives of student participants that lasted approximately twenty-five minutes. Findings suggest that students thrive in environments where the learning is at a slower pace, where they can connect to the learning on deeper levels, and are empowered through surprising networks of support. These findings have implications for all students, with special consideration to students that face higher levels of inequity, systemic racism, and trauma. This study proposes that administrators and school districts rethink policies surrounding fast-paced learning, abiding only by state standards, and how educators can support students in unconventional ways.

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